The Hopeful Wanderer 10 – The Scribbler

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From Pexels

The room was a disaster of notes pinned to cork boards, diagrams on white boards, stacks of notebooks, piles of crumpled paper, pens scattered everywhere. Every time I walked into the home of the Scribbler, I wondered if she would have begun plotting on the ceiling itself. A glance upward confirmed things hadn’t quite progressed that far. Yet.

At the sound of my entrance, the owner of this isolated house poked her head out of another room. Short brown hair stuck up every which way and a brilliant smile lit her face. “You came back.” She would be awake in the middle of the night.

I set my satchel down next to my favorite spot, a gray, sagging armchair. I had to relocate a leaning bunch of books from the cushion to an over-encumbered table, its surface more dirty dishes than wood. “I always do,” I said, dropping into the seat, closing my eyes.

“Someday you won’t, I think.” Soon, the warm scent of coffee reached me. When I looked, she was holding out a mug bearing the phrase don’t piss off the writer and nothing more, while with her other hand, she rummaged through precarious piles. Spiral notebooks slithered away from her touch like living, shrinking things.

Even accepting the mug weighed on me. Time for me to release the burdens of my recent experiences. Well past, really.

With a triumphant noise, she yanked out a much-abused flip notebook — the same one she had been using to record my wanderings last time — and took a seat on a squishy ottoman. Poising her pen, she turned her full attention to me. “Let’s pick up where we left off,” said the Scribbler. “Now tell me, how did you manage to get an ancient deity to sing to you?”


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story.

The Hopeful Wanderer 9 – Sparkler

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Photo by Viktoria from Pexels

On some hot summer nights, gunpowder creatures came out to play in the sky. Pops and cracks split the air as they soared and dove, collided and exploded. Trailing sparks cascaded toward the ground, only to gather and rise again in bursts of white magnesium, blue copper, red strontium, and green barium. Their fiery wings drew ember patterns on the undersides of passing clouds and afterimages on the backs of my eyelids.

I stood below them, surrounded by forest and empty countryside, chin tipped back, mouth open in awe. These beauties tended to flock around cities, consuming the glow of streetlights. Never had I seen them in such a dark place as this, where without the competition of light pollution, their colors burned bright and true.

Despite the spectacle, fizzing near my ear drew my attention. Next to my face hovered an inquisitive little sparkler, too small to join the adults cavorting in the sky. It was shapeless as a star, no more than a palm-sized cluster of pale combusting chemicals centered around a white fire. I jerked my head back when it hovered closer, as if inspecting me. Heat licked at my cheeks, forcing my retreat.

“You can’t land on me, little one,” I told it, dusting glowing orange flecks from my arms.

For a moment, the sparkler’s light dimmed. Then it shot upward, spinning around my head in a dizzying whirl, shedding sparks into my hair. Resisting the urge to swat the delicate thing away, I patted the hot embers out, catching the metallic scent of singed hair.

“Go on,” I growled, “before I dump my water bottle on you.”

Flashing in panic, the sparkler zipped away. I couldn’t feel bad; no doubt I had patches of missing hair now.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

Book Review: The Cruel Prince

I recommend this book. I just do. But it’s especially appropriate for lovers of faerie fantasy, political intrigue, brutal, bloody struggles, and powerful women. 

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The Cruel Prince by #1 New York Times-bestselling author Holly Black

Synopsis

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

(Via the author’s website)

My Impressions

The Cruel Prince came to my attention through an Amazon suggestion based off my interest in the The Language of Thorns (and you can read my review of that Leigh Bardugo short-story collection here). I had thought I read three of Holly Black‘s books already, but it turns out AshesMonsters, and Drowning Instinct instead come from author Ilsa J. Bick, who often shows up on the shelves next to Holly Black. All this time I believed I’d tried Black‘s books and decided they weren’t for me.

Oops.

I am, however, incurably attracted to urban fantasy capital F Fairy Tales revolving around European faerie folklore set in modern times. Someone–might’ve been Maggie Stiefvater, might’ve been another writer whom I admire–endorsed The Cruel Prince on social media, so after that and Amazon’s suggestion, I figured I’d give it a try. The Cruel Prince went straight into my to-be-read pile and soon thereafter right into my hands.

Let me tell you, I’m honestly angry that I got Bick and Black mixed up for so long because I lost so much time that I could’ve been reading Holly Black‘s delightful prose. Beyond her masterful handling of story, her complex and interesting characters, and her intricate weaving of intrigue, she nails modern telling of faerie tropes. The Cruel Prince itself takes place in the hauntingly beautiful land of Faerie, centering around the descendants of recognizable folklore figure Queen Mab, as well as focusing on the circumstances of humans living there alongside its denizens as second-class citizens.

I loved the entire story. The narrative of The Cruel Prince often appeared as one thing only to reveal itself as something darker, more secretive, more seductive, holding the reader at a cliff’s edge, always threatening to let go. I saw myself in Jude, the main character, who wanted to fit in with greatness and had to discover her true aptitude to even begin to fulfill that desire. Watching her grow and change into someone dangerous and deadly left me feeling savagely pleased with her unconventional choices in the pursuit of power. So the story not only takes place in a setting I’ve wanted to see written but written well, it also explores a plot to match the aesthetic of that cruel and wicked world. It lovingly lingered over its female characters, giving them voice, strength, cunning, and daring, but also allowing them to exhibit faults and disappointments. I love all of the ladies and their contributions to the story.

I recommend The Cruel Prince. I just do. But it’s especially appropriate for lovers of faerie fantasy, political intrigue, brutal, bloody struggles, and powerful women.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.21 stars


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The Hopeful Wanderer 7 – The Longest Day

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Photo by Marcos Miranda on Pexels

On this, the longest day of the year, as the sun reached and reached and reached for the horizon, the empty roads and secret paths called me forth to wander. Toward whimsical places, toward unforgettable faces, their whispers urged me. “Follow… follow…”

With yearning tugging at my heart, I left without hesitation. Since that day, my toes have traveled trails trod by many, by few, and by none as I explore the unknown and rediscover the abandoned. To reach and reach and reach my hand for the horizon has become my lot, my curse, my gift. I wander ever onward, ever homeward, ever hopeward.

I feel no pressure to return.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

The Hopeful Wanderer 6 – A Chance of Light Showers

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While passing a farmhouse late one summer evening, I overheard the weather forecast through an open window, the local meteorologist calling for light showers very soon. Though I saw no clouds in the sky, I took shelter beneath an overhang out in the field behind the house, making myself comfortable as the sun finished passing below the horizon. Hands in pockets, parked on a squashy hay bale, satchel at my feet, I would wait out the coming rain in comfort.

From a nearby barn, some farmhands emerged, the weather report blasting from a radio within. One of them turned it down. The farmhouse back door opened and several of the family members crowded onto the porch. They waved at me and I waved back, puzzled at all their expectant faces turned toward the sky.

Then from nowhere fell drops of light.

They arced in ribbons, showering the field with streaks of gold. Pouring almost faster than the eye could detect, slashing across the inky sky and lighting up the field and surrounding woods as bright as day. As each honey-bright gleam hit the ground, it exploded like tiny fireworks, scattering across the grass in a network of shining webs.

I couldn’t help it; I put out my hand. The sparks glancing off my skin felt like warm afternoon sunlight, nothing more. I let the droplets gather within my cupped palm, collecting there like a pool of golden sunwater, weightless as air. But soon the glowing substance destabilized and broke apart, disappearing into invisibility. The flash left sunspots on my vision.

I supposed it didn’t do to keep the sun. Blinking, I lowered my hand, only a little regretful, and witnessed the bright, brief spectacle until the final drop of light fell to the earth.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

The Nope Book Tag

Word Nerd Scribbles tends to feature only books that I liked enough to review (unless it’s one that truly pissed me off), so I think it’ll be fun to, for once, look at some books that I really don’t recommend.

 

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Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

I shamelessly stole this post from Literary Weaponry because I was unlikely to ever get tagged and I wanted to play anyway. Word Nerd Scribbles tends to feature only books that I liked enough to review (unless it’s one that truly pissed me off), so I think it’ll be fun to, for once, look at some books that I really don’t recommend. The tag’s originator can be found here.


NOPE. ending:

A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage or simply because the ending was crappy.

Capture The Death Cure by James Dashner

SPOILERS. Three entire books building up to the worst cop out solution I’ve seen. The stakes are high: sacrifice the main character or the world burns. Wait, the main character doesn’t want to sacrifice himself? Okay, here’s a utopia where he and his friends can have sex and re-start the world (I guess), like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, except Eve (Teresa), the only girl, dies first. They’re fine. Everyone else is screwed.

 

NOPE. protagonist:

A main character you dislike and that drives you crazy.

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The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

I first read this series in high school and it may have been my first true introduction to YA urban fantasy. I loved the world and the side characters, but I cannot stand the main character, Clary Fray. Compared to the rest of the cast, she’s boring and I was more inclined to skip to the chapters featuring Simon than read anything about her.

NOPE. series:

A series that turned out to be a huge pile of nope after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it.

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I made an actual genuine attempt to read Twilight for the sake of my little sister, who loves the series. We made a deal that for however many of the books I read, she would read one of my suggestions. I only got through the first book through sheer stubborn spite, because I found the pacing slow, the characters flat, and the events uninteresting. I will never finish the series.

NOPE. pairing:

A “ship” you don’t support.

 

I don’t ship 99% of the pairings I read. Next!

NOPE. plot twist:

A twist you didn’t see coming and didn’t like.

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Ruin and Rising 
by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo pulled a seemingly small but gut-wrenching plot twist in the final installment of her Grisha Trilogy. I wasn’t ready. I had to go back and reread that section to make sure I understood it right. Then I had to text my friend to tell her how mad I was about it.

 

NOPE. genre:

A genre you will never read.

Romance. It’s fine, it’s fine that other people like it. No worries. But the romance is never, ever the reason why I come to a story.

NOPE. book format:

A book format you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition.

can read books in a digital format, but I don’t want to. Also, I’d rather not read/own the movie cover edition.

NOPE. trope:

A trope that makes you go NOPE.

Coming back to romance again: I can’t stand the trope of characters–whether longtime friends, longtime enemies, or just met–falling in love over the course of a handful of days. No one does that. Such a thing is infatuation at absolute best, but probably amounts to much deeper psychological problems.

I also despise when female characters make little to no discernible contribution to the plot and/or when the narrative contains no female characters. Looking right at you, J.R.R. Tolkein. Along the same lines, narratives that contain little to no diversity get an eye roll and a negative review from me.

NOPE. recommendation:

A book recommendation that is constantly pushed at you, that you simply refuse to read.

I’m resistant to most recommendations at first because, naturally, no one really knows my taste in books.

NOPE. cliché:

A cliché or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

When a character sighs. Really, narrator? You want to describe them sighing? You couldn’t come up with something more interesting? When characters are exasperated or disappointed, I will take literally any other possible description.

NOPE. love interest:

A love interest that’s not worthy of being one.
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Wuthering  Heights by Emily Bronte

Romanticized manipulative, abusive, gaslighting, outright jerks. The classic Byronic hero Heathcliff of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights embodies my intense dislike of this love interest trope. NOPE.

NOPE. book:

A book that shouldn’t have existed.

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Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

The only thing this book has going for it is a lovely descriptive and syntactic style. I read the entire thing thinking surely prose this wonderful will amount to something in the end. But no. Nothing happened in this book.
Nothing happened in this book.

 

NOPE. villain:

A villain you would hate to cross.

Six of Crows Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

While Kaz Brekker functions as an anti-hero, not a villain, he’s certainly the stuff of nightmares for society in his world. Out of every true villain I’ve ever read, I’d much rather cross them than Dirtyhands.

NOPE. death:

A character death that still haunts you.

CaptureGregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

love the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins and Gregor and the Code of Claw, the final installment, has my heart forever. But there’s a character death in this particular book that kills me every time I read it. I haven’t reread it in a long time, because I just can’t face my favorite character dying all over again.

NOPE. author:

An author you had a bad experience reading and have decided to quit.

CaptureThe Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore

I used to be really into this series. The first book, I Am Number Four, was so good. But then the writers of the series–collectively under ‘Pittacus Lore’–started rolling out extras and short-stories and the series dragged out, so I dropped it because between releases, I was losing track of everything happening in that universe.

 

 

 


Well, that was cathartic. 10/10 I recommend you try this nope book tag yourself.

The Hopeful Wanderer 5 – The Wretched Well

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Photo by Úrsula Madariaga from Pexels

When I stopped at a well in the woods, I found within not water but a wretched waif. A pale figure curled up on a bed of grass and crushed flowers, the hands cupped over their head the picture of abject sorrow. Their voice bounced off the stone walls up to me, distorted and muffled. “Do not drink here.”

Warm sunlight beat down on the back of my neck, a contrast to the chilly air rising up from below. “I would not,” I replied, leaning my arms on the well rim, where grit bit at my skin. Surveying the prison below, I searched for a way to free the stranger. No cracks marked the smooth inner walls, no handy rope dangled down. “How do I get you out?”

Grass rustled when the well-dweller turned their head to look up at me. My stomach plunged at the sight; for a moment, the face was mine, or that of someone I had once known. “I would rather stay here,” they mumbled. “I have poisoned the well, but the well contains my poison.”

“You will suffocate, then,” I replied, though I suspected they already understood that.

“Leave me.” The wretch curled up tighter, face hidden from me once more.

I tapped my fingers against the stone, gaze on the mossy middle distance. At a loss, but unwilling to leave. After a minute or three, I dug around in my satchel and withdrew two climbing picks. They thumped against the soft dirt next to the well-dweller’s head and they flinched back in surprise.

“For when you’re ready to get yourself out,” I explained.

Before I moved on, one pale hand reached out and grasped a pick, clenching it in a tight, shaking grip.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story.